Georgia State Parks: Panola Mountain State Park.

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August park: Panola Mountain State Park.

I had been purposely saving this state park just in case I needed a park that was nearby.

And I totally needed it!

My original plan for August was to stop by High Falls State Park on our way home from visiting my parents last weekend.  But…I was SO tired, and it was a rainy day — so we didn’t stop.

But that meant we needed a state park for this month — yay for Panola!

GETTING THERE.

Panola Mountain is in Stockbridge, right off I-20 (about 40 minutes from our house).  We got there around 10 a.m.  When we got there it wasn’t crowded or anything, but several of the picnic pavilions already had groups getting ready to grill out.  But it seemed all the picnic pavilions had their own parking, as did the playground, nature center and bike path — which I thought was great.

WHAT WE DID.

The real question should be: What didn’t we do? Ha!  I felt like we SO MUCH at this state park.  This was basically the total opposite of our Tallulah Gorge experience. (Again…sorry, Tallulah!)

We brought our bikes, so when we first arrived we rode our bikes on the PATH Foundation paved trail to the Panola Mountain overlook.  After that, we checked out their nature center, which was really great!

Then we headed over to their “famous” 100-foot tall Southern Red Oak.  It’s in another part of the park, so we made the short drive to the other side for this. (They do tree climbing excursions on certain weekends using this tree — and I am dying to do it!  Which is why I was kind of passionate about seeing it.)  A short walk from the parking lot took us to the tree! We were the only people at the tree at the time.  It was beautiful!  And they had picnic tables there, so that’s where we ate our lunch.  Later, when I asked the kids what their favorite thing was from the day, Tom said this was his favorite part.  We just ate, and played and ran around — it was really fun.

After this, we headed to their playground for a while (Alice’s favorite part).  Then back to the nature center — where we talked with one of their park rangers about a short hike.  And she sent us on the Overlook Trail — which was awesome.  And she gave our kids nature booklets and a scavenger hunt to complete!  (They did, and they got a cute prize at the end.)  It was a really, really fun, full day!

MY VOTE.

This was a really neat park with a lot of stuff to do.  Kevin loved this park because of all the activities.  Panola Mountain (a 100-acre granite outcrop similar to Stone Mountain) itself is special because it was never quarried.  So it is pristine.  To hike this mountain, you must have a reservation and go with a guide.  You can see Panola from their overlooks, though!  And if you look really, really closely, you can see Stone Mountain in the distance from the Overlook Trail.  We loved our day here.  There was so much to do, and all of it was great.  Everyone here was extremely nice, and I feel like if we lived a little bit closer, we’d be here all the time.  (They also have archery lessons, which seemed very popular, and they have a lake with kayak and boat rentals.  So much to do!)

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(Stone Mountain waaaaaayyyy in the distance.)

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Alice didn’t want a picture this day. She had fun all day, even immediately after this.  Just NO PICTURES. (Sorry, Alice!)

Read about our other Georgia State Park adventures so far this year!

January park: Sweetwater Creek State Park.
February park: FDR State Park.
March park: Providence Canyon State Park
April park: George L. Smith State Park
May park: Tallulah Gorge State Park
June park: Watson Mill Bridge State Park
July park: Indian Springs State Park

Follow our adventures on Instagram! #12parksin2015

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Georgia State Parks: Indian Springs State Park.

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July park: Indian Springs State Park.

Indian Springs State Park is one of the oldest state parks in the United States (and may be the oldest)!

We pass near it on our way to visit my parents, so it had been on my radar for awhile — and I’m so glad we were able to finally go!

I actually camped at this state park with friends in high school during spring break — but I honestly didn’t remember it AT ALL.

(I have the worst memory!  I swear my lack of memories has nothing to do with alcohol or drugs or anything. Ha! Plus, high school was a LONG time ago for me!)

GETTING THERE.

We went on a sunny, hot Sunday.  My original plan was that we would combine a visit to this park with a visit to my parents’ house, but the timing just didn’t work out.  So we drove down to Indian Springs just for the day.  From Atlanta, it took about an hour and 20 minutes (mostly interstate, and then driving through some small towns).  An easy drive, for sure!

WHAT WE DID.

So I knew that what we wanted to do was walk on the rocks and wade in the water.  But when we got there, it was almost completely deserted, so I wasn’t even sure if the rocks we were seeing was where wading was allowed or what! Ha! I’m such a rule-follower.  But it quickly became clear that the rocks we saw at the entrance, was what we were supposed to be doing.  So we had it to ourselves for the majority of the time!  It was great!  The kids LOVED this.  They really got to explore this place.  Most of the water was pretty shallow, so that was great for playing, too.  We packed a lunch, and ate it on the rocks.  It was really, really pretty and fun.

We also got to sample the spring water inside the stone Spring House (built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression).  The water totally smelled like sulfur, but Kevin and I tried it anyway! The kids just put their hands in it, and had fun exploring the house.  The Creek Indians used to collect this water and believed it had healing powers.  So neat.

This park also has a lake and beach, but the kids were so enamored with the rocks and water, they weren’t even interested in going to see it!

MY VOTE.

This park was great. Really quiet. Really, really relaxing.  It totally felt like a lazy Sunday, except we spent it somewhere different.  I loved it.

Kevin thought it was hot.  If you asked him what he thought, he would just say, “It was hot.”  He has no positive opinions in the heat of a Georgia summer, unless he’s actually *in* the water.  Totally understandable!  He also thought the spring water was really, really neat.  That was his favorite.

The kids thought it was GREAT.  They really loved this one.

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Read about our other Georgia State Park adventures so far this year!

January park: Sweetwater Creek State Park.
February park: FDR State Park.
March park: Providence Canyon State Park
April park: George L. Smith State Park
May park: Tallulah Gorge State Park
June park: Watson Mill Bridge State Park

Follow our adventures on Instagram! #12parksin2015

Posted in Baby Girl, Family, Georgia Outdoors, Georgia State Parks, Kevin, Tom, Travel | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Naked In Wal-Mart.

A couple weeks ago, I took Alice with me to Wal-Mart to buy all the supplies Tom would need for Kindergarten.

(!!!)

I sat her in the cart, and proceeded to go up and down the school supply section armed with the list and a determination to score all 24 glue sticks, yellow spiral-bound notebooks, and green plastic folders with brads that were needed.

After we were done with the school supplies, we then trekked all over the super store to get the antibacterial wipes, the Clorox, the hand soap, the baby wipes, and the special requested copy paper, because I am a suck up.

After my cart was full of all things Kindergarten-related, I realized I’d forgotten one thing, and that it was (of course!) on the other side of the store.

So as I’m walking up another full aisle of Wal-Mart, to get that one. last. thing. Alice says loudly…

“I DON’T HAVE ANY PANTIES ON!!  I’M NAKED IN THE STORE!!!”

Y’all.

Me (quiet-sort-of-loud-whisper): “What?!  Why are you saying that?  Of course you have panties on!”

Alice (proving it):  “No I don’t!”

She didn’t.

And then I died.

I had walked all over that huge store. For an hour. With my child in a short dress. Sitting in that cart.  NO PANTIES.

In Wal-Mart.

Chandler Bing (probably): “Could you BE any more Wal-Mart?” #friends

No. No we could not.

She didn’t say it in the beginning of this trip.  You know, when I could’ve…bought panties for the little stinker who insists on taking them off whenever!

Nope. Full on HOUR LATER.

So…I just took her out of the cart.  Told her to walk (you know, instead of flashing EVERYONE in the school aisle!) to the check-out and to please, please, PLEASE not pull up her dress.  Or speak.

She did.

Check-out was mercifully uneventful and we made it to the car without arrest.

Remember that time Kevin took Tom to school with no pants?

Yeah.  Well, apparently it’s contagious!

Enjoy the crayons, Tom!

Your naked bottomed little sis picked them out! ;)

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Georgia State Parks: Watson Mill Bridge State Park.

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June park: Watson Mill Bridge State Park.

This was the first month that I was a little bit challenged when it came to working our monthly state park visit into our schedule.

And that’s why I’m so glad we have this plan!

Because if I didn’t have this plan to stick to (according to me) then we probably wouldn’t have gone to Watson Mill Bridge State Park — and that would mean missing out on such a wonderful state park!

I am so, so happy we did this one!

It was really amazing, right up our alley, and a great one to visit in the warm summer months!

GETTING THERE.

We headed out to this state park after my nephew’s 4th birthday party that morning.  My sister’s family lives about 40 minutes from this park (in Athens), so that wasn’t bad at all!  We also stopped back by her house on the way home and had dinner with them to break it up — which was great for us.  But this state park is worth the visit, no matter where you live.

WHAT WE DID.

I know you’re going to think I’m weird, but I honestly did not realize until we were there, that Watson Mill Bridge was still a working covered bridge that you actually drove through.  Ha!  It was amazing!!  So very, very neat.  It’s the longest wooden covered bridge in Georgia (229 feet) and was just very impressive.  So beautiful!

We arrived in the afternoon (maybe around 2:30 p.m.) and found parking right away.  We put the kids in their suits (I just did it in the car) and walked to the water, which was right next to the lot.  Several families were having picnics, and there were quite a few families in the water, but I wouldn’t call it “crowded” or anything.  I just thought it was great so many people were out there enjoying it!

And it was so great!  The only warning I would give, is that the rocks were super slippery if you weren’t on the ones that had moss.  The mossy ones were good.  The others were so slick, it was scary!  I was scared to hold Alice, in case I fell!  But once we got that figured out, and found a good place to “set up” we were good.  Alice found a  little waterfall she loved.  Tom found a “deep” pool to swim in.  I found a crayfish that I didn’t realize *was* a crayfish, and was really scared of.  And Kevin found an old high school buddy to catch up with.  It was great.

I loved that you could walk right up to the “waterfall” at the bridge.  And I loved that there was so much to see. The kids just adored it.

After we’d been there about 90 minutes, it started to get really windy and the thunder sounded close — so we decided to head back out.

But I KNOW this is one we will visit again this year.  It was just really, really great.

MY VOTE.

This one is ranked high for me.  I loved the activity of swimming and exploring the rocks.  It was the perfect thing to do on a summer day, with the most beautiful backdrop.  LOVED!

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Read about our other Georgia State Park adventures so far this year!

January park: Sweetwater Creek State Park.
February park: FDR State Park.
March park: Providence Canyon State Park
April park: George L. Smith State Park
May park: Tallulah Gorge State Park

Follow our adventures on Instagram! #12parksin2015

Posted in Baby Girl, Family, Georgia Outdoors, Georgia State Parks, Kevin, Motherhood, Tom, Travel | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Jekyll Island.

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We were in Jekyll Island last week for our annual family vacation.

I love that place.  I just LOVELOVELOVE it!

It’s really just a magical place.  So wonderful and fun.  So, so perfect.

We…

Played in the ocean for hours, went on a dolphin tour, hung out with Grandma and PawPaw and our cousins and some aunts and uncles, grilled out with family, visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, went to a water park, visited Driftwood Beach, went on a bike ride, flew a kite, collected 100 sand dollars (and threw them back!), walked around the Millionaire’s Village, Tom fell in love with the beach even more, Kevin ate crab legs, and one evening at dinner — Alice fell asleep in my arms.

It was the best of times.

I have a slideshow of photos to prove it.

 

I’m ready to go back.

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Posted in Baby Girl, Family, Georgia Outdoors, Kevin, Motherhood, Tom, Travel | 1 Comment

Caving At Cloudland.

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I’m backtracking, because I cannot not tell you about this most awesome adventure my Mom and I had this year!

My Mom’s birthday is in April, and this year to celebrate, she and I went caving at Cloudland Canyon State Park.

(This does not count as April’s state park visit, because just my Mom was with me.  But I’d love to come back with my little family, because it takes my breath away with how beautiful it is.)

So! For this adventure, I signed us up for a 2-hour tour with Georgia Girl Guides.

I read everything on their website. I explained it all to my mom and asked her if she would do it with me.  She (of course) said YES.  And then we did it.

And it was THE. BEST. EVER.

Even though I felt prepared after everything I read, and even though I expected to really, really love it — it surpassed my expectations.

I just was IN LOVE with it.

Here’s the deal: They tell you to wear clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting really wet and really muddy.  They tell you to bring a change of clothes.  They supply you with knee pads, helmet with a light, and gloves.  And they explain everything to you that you see.

It is amazing.

The girls that run this company are awesome. I felt like they were my friends.  We had cool people in our group (a family with a couple teenagers) and it just made for an awesome experience.  I was so happy my mom was there to experience this with me.

We saw bats!

(Kate fact: I like bats a lot.  They eat mosquitoes. They are my friends.)

We trekked through knee-high cold water.  This surprised me!  For some reason, I thought it would be like…ankle-deep?  No.  You pretty much enter the cave, and then jump in to cold water and walk through it for a while.  There are parts of the tour that are not in water, but I think about half is.

The cave is so beautiful and amazing.  Just something I never dreamed I’d see.  It was awesome!

And toward the end of the tour, our guides had us sit down and we all turned off our lights.

Y’all?

I have never “seen” dark like that before.

Such a cool experience all around.

I truly, truly cannot wait to do it again.

Who’s with me?

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Before.

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That hole is what we climbed out of at the end of the tour. Crazy!

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Entering the cave.

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I had my iPhone in a waterproof case on this trip — so my pics look like…they were taken with an iPhone. ;)  Still amazing, though, right?!

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That’s a cluster of about 7 bats sleeping together.

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The formations at the top right were called “cave bacon” because it looks like…bacon strips!

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Walking through water.

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This was Mom after she did a “challenge.”  You didn’t have to do this, but some things were a little more challenging and they gave you the option.  We did all of them!  This one was crazy — you had to seriously angle your head a certain way to squeeze through a spot that looked impossible.  But we did it!  So cool.  So impressed with my mom.

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She did it!

Isn’t my mom rad?

I know.

Next year I think I owe her a spa experience. ;)

Can’t wait.

Posted in Family, Georgia Outdoors, Georgia State Parks, Travel | 2 Comments

Cheered Up.

Monday, I got a book to read when we go to the beach next week — a definite beachy read (The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand).

But then I couldn’t help myself and decided to start reading it right away.

And then I finished it yesterday.

(Oops.)

Anyway, toward the end, there was a sad part and I started to cry.

(I’m a sap.)

Alice: “What’s wrong, Mommy?”

Me: “Oh! Nothing. This is just a sad book I’m reading.”

And then what happened next was the sweetest bit of cheering up I’ve ever had.

Alice immediately snatched the book out of my hands and snapped it shut.

Then she wiped a tear off my face.

Then she ran into her playroom, brought out her bin of instruments and announced she was going to play me song.

She banged the drums, the piano, and handed me a shaker and played her little heart out.

“Are you happy now, Mommy?” she asked.

Yes.

I’m very, very happy now, Alice.

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Posted in Baby Girl, Motherhood | 1 Comment